The owner of a New Hanover County after-school karate program is behind bars, charged with indecent liberties with children. John Maisenhelder made his first appearance in a New Hanover County courtroom today. He's charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a child. According to the District Attorney's Office, the charges involve three separate victims from an after school center Maisenhelder owns, a place where he taught karate to kids. A teacher, a pastor and a friend, John Maisenhelder seems like an unlikely suspect for the charges he faces. Three counts of indecent liberties, involving three different children at the Creative After School Training program, or CAST. Maisenhelder has owned CAST for ten years, and taught karate there. He is blackbelt. He also holds a degree from a theological seminary, and once served as a pastor. Maisenhelder's Defense Attorney Woody White told us he was a pastor at Southside Baptist Church. Church members tell WWAY he was not a pastor there, but was a church member. Employees at CAST were instructed not to speak with the media, but the day after Maisenhelder's arrest, children did attend the after school program. According to the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, both Maisenhelder's home, and the CAST center were searched before the arrest. His defense attorney, Woody White, issued this statement to WWAY: “Presently, John, his wife, his daughter, family and many friends are shocked over the allegations of the last 24 hours. They have fully cooperated with the authorities, and respect the investigative process, while also, unequivocally, asserting John's innocence.” WWAY spoke with John Maisenhelder's wife. She did not want to appear on camera but said her husband was innocent. In court, John Maisenhelder's bond was cut in half, from $1 million to $500,000. He has no prior record. His after school program is still open. It currently has 42 children enrolled. Law enforcement has notified the parents of Maisenhelder's arrest and subsequent charges. The District Attorney's Office is concerned that news of the charges against Maisenhelder will bring more allegations from current and former students.
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